Social Media Marketing Primer: Twitter

By: Courtney Aznavoorian & Rachel Donahoe


Features of Twitter

Twitter is a social media platform that allows users to share a quick thought in 140 characters or less. Unlike Facebook, it is not exactly used to hang out with friends; it is about sharing information. Users can post their own thoughts, tell people about something that they found interesting, as well as interact with each other in different ways. Twitter allows a person to favorite, retweet, or reply to another person’s tweet. Retweeting is used when a user wants someone else’s tweet to appear on his own timeline. There is also an option to retweet with your own comment. It is a good way for people to share their own thoughts and opinions, and stay connected to other people. It is also beneficial for celebrities to have a way to connect and interact with their fans and make them feel involved in their lives.

One of the most important features of Twitter is the hashtag. When a hashtag is used, that makes a tweet visible to anyone who searches that hashtag. A lot of brands are using those to get people talking and involved. Television shows have also been using this feature to create more buzz by having specific hashtags appear on the screen during the show, and then people go and tweet that hashtag. When enough people tweet the same hashtag, it becomes a trending topic; there is a list of trending topics which is constantly updated. It is possible to see what is trending in any specific country as well. Marketing research can be done based on that kind of information because companies can see what is popular in a certain country at a certain time to a specific audience.

There are around 645,750,000 active users and around 2 billion searches on Twitter every day (Viliavin). This presents great opportunities for businesses to take advantage of. One of the features of Twitter that is specifically useful for marketing is the custom timeline. This can be used with the TweetDeck app, and it allows the user to choose which Tweets appear in the timeline, as well as where they appear. Businesses can make a list of their products, with the newest ones appearing at the top. It is also possible to make a timeline of the best tweets from customers who tweet about the products using a specific hashtag (Viliavin). Other information such as customer reviews and answers to questions can also be presented in a clear way.

In addition to trending topics, another feature of Twitter that is convenient for marketing research is the archive. A user can download all of the tweets that they have ever posted. Having every tweet to look at is beneficial because a company can examine what they have been doing that has worked and what has failed. Similar to this, Twitter also provides a way to analyze specifics about who has been reading your tweets. For every tweet that is posted, the website will give information about the audience such as ages, genders, locations, interests, and what mobile devices they are using (Jones). This information is crucial for a business to have so they can figure out ways to cater to their audience better and promote the business more effectively.

Although Twitter is primarily used to share information, photo sharing is a feature as well. Photos provide a good way to make a timeline look better and share information in a different way. Twitter teamed up with Aviary to provide iPhone and Android users with special features and effects (Viliavin). This makes it more convenient for companies to post pictures that represent their brand authentically. There are also Twitter cards, which allow companies to attach media expressions to Tweets and direct readers to their content. This means that every time a user Tweets a link to their content, a card will be added to it which will then be visible by the user’s followers (Viliavin).

Marketing Activities on Twitter

Different brands use different ways of marketing on Twitter. Some brands will tweet about any new arrivals or sales they are having, some brands use hashtags to get people involved, and some brands let the customers speak for them. There is a brand called shop priceless, and they do a good job of marketing with Twitter because they are not too forceful. Their tweets are very friendly towards their customers, and are received well by people. A lot of their tweets are about new items they have in stock, along with a picture of a complete outfit, and they also retweet tweets from their customers who are enjoying their purchases and want to shop with them again. They also interact with their customers by answering questions, helping with any problems the customer may have had, and just telling people that they are glad they are enjoying their new clothes. This brand has a good balance between consumer tweets and brand tweets. It is good for a company to interact with its customers because customers like to feel heard and it gives the company a positive brand image.

Marketing Objectives and Strategies

There is a lot for marketers to gain by using Twitter. A few of the objectives they may have are to increase brand awareness, create a positive brand image, and ultimately gain more customers who will shop with the company, therefore increasing sales and success while creating growth. Using Twitter for marketing is about building the brand and creating positive buzz. It is extremely important to create a strategy where the brand is represented in a positive way and also to stay true to the company’s values. The way a company presents itself on social media can make a huge impact on how people perceive them as a whole.

Marketers can achieve their objectives once they have gained a lot of followers who are active on Twitter, and relevant to the brand. People who enjoy the brand will be the ones to follow and post tweets about them, as well as help spread the word to their friends and Twitter followers. This helps generate brand awareness, which allows the company to reach more potential customers. Marketers also have the opportunity to do their own research by looking at what other companies have been doing, and then find ways to differentiate themselves and become even more successful than others.

A tactic that is big in the Twitter world is to create a branded hashtag and use it for different campaigns. When a brand specifically makes its own hashtag, people know to associate it with that brand. It makes them more original. This is also a good way to promote any contests they have going on. Contests are done on Twitter quite often, and it is a great way to get people involved and excited.

While it is important to have a large following, it is even more important to make sure the followers are highly engaged. Marketing is not as useful if people are simply reading the tweets. People need to be replying and sharing with their own followers. This is why companies should be sure to make time for monitoring the account and responding to people’s questions or comments. Companies can track the level of engagement that happens organically and compare it to the level of engagement that happens when you create it to see if their strategy is effective or not (DeMers).

A useful tactic for companies to take advantage of is to have a Twitter party, which is an online event sponsored by your brand that can be used to meet your customers, announce a service, launch a product, or simply get people talking (Gibson). It is a cheap and easy way to generate hundreds of tweets about your brand in just a couple of hours. Organizing a specific time period for Twitter users to talk about the brand while using a certain hashtag helps build brand awareness and shows people that the company cares to listen to them.

Successful Marketing Initiatives

Recently, people have been getting more creative with marketing strategies on Twitter. Last year, LG wanted to appeal to more 16-24 year olds; so they created a treasure hunt on Twitter. They would set out a stall in a city in the UK and the first person to get there won two tickets to a concert. LG placed a map online that gradually zoomed in on the location of the stall whenever the hashtag # lgtickethunter was used. The campaign was very successful. It received 5,000 tweets on the first day, and reached 50,000 by the end; they ended up quadrupling smartphone sales among that target market during the weeks after the campaign (5 Case Studies of Intriguing Twitter Marketing Campaigns).

Knowing your audience is extremely important in marketing, because the company has to know the most effective way to reach them. Luvs did a good job of this because they created the Lullaby Lift campaign when they discovered that there were a lot of mothers of babies in Brooklyn who did not have cars. They offered moms with sleepless babies in Brooklyn an opportunity to go on a taxi ride to rock their baby to sleep when the moms tweeted #LullabyLift. It got a lot of people across the country talking about it online.

At the 2014 Academy Awards, Samsung gained a lot of popularity after the famous group photo was posted by Ellen DeGeneres. It was part of a negotiated agreement to integrate the Samsung Galaxy into the award show (Baker). This became the most retweeted photo of all time, and had more than one million retweets within just forty-five minutes of being posted. It is estimated that about 37 million people worldwide saw the tweet, and around 43 million viewers watched the show live and saw the selfie get taken (Baker). The initiative ended up being a successful use of product placement because people can be heavily influenced by celebrities.

Recently, Kate Spade has been doing a campaign with the hashtag #missadventure. This consists of a series of short videos, starring Anna Kendrick, where she goes on little misadventures and Kate Spade’s clothing and accessories are incorporated into it. This is a good way for them to get their products out there and show how they can be worn and used, without being too pushy about selling. They also got a very relevant actress to star in this campaign, which is good for them because fans of Anna Kendrick will be likely to shop at Kate Spade because of her. Her presence alone creates a lot of buzz because people are tweeting about it constantly. The company Tweets about these videos when they come out and use their hashtag #missadventure in a lot of their tweets, and also inspire other people to use it too. It is an effective way to keep people engaged and excited about the brand.

Unsuccessful Marketing Initiatives

One of the downsides to using social media to make a brand more successful is that it can go badly just as quickly as it can go well. One example of a marketing initiative that ended up being unsuccessful was Sephora’s attempt to promote a store opening in Australia. They wanted to get people excited about the new store by using the hashtag #CountdownToBeauty in their tweets. However, they made a very bad typo and accidentally wrote #C**tdownToBeauty. It created a lot of backlash and hurt the brand’s reputation. One simple mistake like that can do so much damage because it reaches so many people at once.

Hashtags and trending topics are very important on Twitter because tweets are more visible when popular hashtags are used. However, taking advantage of those trending topics can also backfire. This was the case with Kenneth Cole when he used the revolution in Egypt to promote his brand. At the time, #Cairo was trending, and he used this opportunity to tweet: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is online at…” People were very angry about it and tweeted terrible comments about his brand. Eventually, he deleted the tweet and apologized for it.

Twitter also provides companies with the opportunity to communicate with customers. If this is not done the right way, it can create a negative perception of the brand. Urban Outfitters was accused of stealing designs from artists without credit, and they did not respond correctly. The company acknowledged this by tweeting “Hey guys, we see your tweets regarding the I Heart Destination necklace. Please know that our accessories buying team is looking into this.” This makes it look like they were trying to avoid the subject a little bit and people were not happy that the company did not address the issue enough. This actually caused them to lose 17,000 followers just three hours after the accusatory tweet, and #UrbanOutfitters and #Thieves were both trending topics (Bhasin).

Typically when a disaster happens somewhere in the world, the word spreads quickly over Twitter because a lot of people try to spread awareness and show their support. Customers may have increased respect for a brand who acknowledges those types of situations and does something to contribute to help. There was a time when Bing attempted to start a campaign to raise money for earthquake victims in Japan. They went about it in a very bad way and got very negative responses. In launching this campaign, Bing said it would donate $1 for every retweet it got. People felt that the brand was using this disaster to promote themselves. Soon enough, the hashtag #f**kBing was started. Later, Bing sent out a form of an apology and donated the $100,000 (Bhasin).


As with anything, there are risks involved in marketing on Twitter. One of the big risks is that not enough people see or engage with your tweet, or there are not enough followers of the account. It is difficult to do anything when you have little to no audience. There are also risks when you do have a big audience, such as posting something that can potentially be offensive. These days, it is important to be extremely careful because there is such a wide range of demographics on Twitter and any little remark can cause a loss of a lot of followers. Hackers are also a big problem to watch out for. One bad hacking incident can completely ruin a brand’s reputation if they post negative and offensive tweets. Another risk along those lines is that everything that is posted stays there forever, and can potentially be used against the company if anything happens such as a scandal. Being so public also leaves a company exposed to the possibility of negative comments. If there are too many people posting negative tweets about a company, other people may also be influenced and have a negative brand perception.

Works Cited

“5 Case Studies of Intriguing Twitter Marketing Campaigns | Our Social Times – Social Media Agency, Social Media Training.” Our Social Times Social Media Agency Social Media Training. Web. 24 Sept. 2015. <   case-studies/>.

“7 Of The Most Creative Twitter Campaigns.” SocialTimes. 7 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Sept. 2015. <;.

Baker, Laura. “Best of 2014: Our Favorite Twitter Campaigns.” Spredfast. 3 Dec. 2014. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <;.

Bhasin, Kim. “13 Epic Twitter Fails By Big Brands.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 6 Feb. 2012. Web. 24 Sept. 2015. <;.

DeMers, Jason. Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 1 Apr. 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. < strategy-in-2014/>.

Gibson, Whitney. “Hosts and Sponsors of ‘Twitter Parties’ Must Be Aware of Legal Risks – Social Media Explorer.” Social Media Explorer Hosts and Sponsors of Twitter Parties Must Be Aware of Legal Risks Comments. 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 Sept. 2015. <;.

Jones, Martin. “Revamped Twitter Offers New Features for Small Business Marketing.” Cox BLUE. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <;.

Lucy, Michael. “The Risks of Social Media Marketing.” 3v Biz Solutions. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <;.

Meskauskas, Jim. “Taking Risks with Twitter.” – 17 Mar. 2009. Web.  25 Sept. 2015. <;.

Relander, Brett. “5 Social Media Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.” Entrepreneur. 3 June 2014. Web. 24 Sept. 2015. <;.

Robinson, Craig. “The Risks Associated with Social Media Marketing.” Business 2 Community. 23 Sept. 2013. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <;.

Rubin, Ted. “20 Important Twitter Goals and Objectives for Business | Ted Rubin, Professional #KeynoteSpeaker, #RonR.” Ted Rubin Professional KeynoteSpeaker RonR. 12 Apr.   2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <;.

Shandrow, Kim. “The 5 Worst Twitter Marketing Fails of 2014.” Entrepreneur. 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 22 Sept. 2015. <;.

Viliavin, Roman. “Best Twitter Features to Promote Your Online Business | SEMPO Blog | Top of Search = Top of Mind ®.” SEMPO Blog. 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <;.

Young, Heike. “The 30 Most Brilliant Social Media Campaigns of 2014 (So Far) – TheExactTarget Blog.” The ExactTarget Blog. 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 23 Sept. 2015. <    2014-so-far/>.

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